Monday, November 16, 2009

The inspiring story of GERHARD KUNTSCHER


- Served in the German army during the Second World War.
- Kuntscher was prejudiced academically and ‘was never offered a chair’.
- Developed the Kuntscher nail for the treatment of femur fractures
- The first intramedullary nailing was performed in 1939 University of Hamburg’s Department of Surgery
- German military initially disapproved of Kuntscher’s IM nailing technique
- The German military had the upper hand on treating soldiers with the IM nail and having them return to fighting status in just a few weeks.
- Worldwide knowledge was not established until the Prisoners of War (POW’s) returned to their home countries carrying Kuntscher’s legacy in the form of steel nails in their legs
- 'The war and the post-war period' produced unfavorable conditions that severely limited and hampered his creative activities

- Küntscher published his first book on intramedullary nailing at the end of World War II.
- Although it was written in 1942, the illustrations for it were destroyed in the air raids on Leipzig, so the book was not published until 1945.
- In 1945, the Germans understood Kuntscher's technique when the book was published.
- Küntscher developed femoral and tibial nails, an intramedullary bone saw for endosteal osteotomy, the distractor to align the fractures, an expanding nail for the distal tibia, the “signal arm” nail for Trochanteric fractures, cannulated flexible powered intramedullary reamers, and an intramedullary nail to apply compression across fracture sites.
- All this was done in collaboration with his engineer, Ernst Pohl, and his lifetime technical assistant, Gerhardt Breske.
- Of Küntscher's invention, A. W. Fischer said in 1944: "This practical treatment of fractures using a nail, the Küntscher procedure, is, in my eyes, a great revolution that will conquer the world."

- Küntscher was a great lover of life: he swam every day; he enjoyed humor and parties and was a great practical joker, but never married, according to Herr Breske, because “he was far too busy.”
- Unfortunately, only in his very late years did Küntscher’s accomplishments and work earn widespread recognition and respect. ‘It disappointed him that his operative methods were regarded sceptically at first.’
- Gerhardt Küntscher died in 1972 at his desk, ‘working on yet a further edition of his book on intramedullary nailing’.
- He was found slumped over his final manuscript on “Practice of Medullary Nailing” by Dr. Wolfgang Wolfers, chief of surgery at the St. Franziskus Hospital of Flensberg, where from 1965 onward Küntscher had worked as a guest surgeon

1. M S. and Siegfried Fischer et al..Gerhard küntscher 1900-1972 J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1974; 56:208-209.
2. Seyed Behrooz Mostofi in 'Who's who in Orthopaedics', 2005, Springer verlag, United States of America


  1. this is one of the most inspiring stories i have read...great things never come has to work really hard..As one senior surgeon said,' when the going gets tough only the tough gets going'...

    can u believe that Kuntscher lost all his work in the airstrikes at a point in time where there are no computers(forget the >300GB storage hard disks we have now)..

    and he died on his desk while writing yet another masterpiece.really touching..

  2. how many of us know that Ilizarov couldnt attend school until he was age 11 due to dire financial circumstances,but later on made the most pathbreaking discovery in orthopaedics!!

  3. Kuntscher was banished to Finnish Lapland 1942 -1944 where he trained finnish surgeons on the technique. As a teenager I got one of the original nails in my femur in 1950 in Finnland. Its still there. Causes occasional arthritis like pain in the knee or femur.